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Hale new DBacks manager; a look at A’s coaching options

Chip Hale, the A's bench coach the last three seasons, will be named Arizona Diamondbacks manager today.

Chip Hale, the A’s bench coach the last three seasons, will be named Arizona Diamondbacks manager today.

Longtime A’s bench coach Chip Hale was named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday.

Hale spent the last three seasons with the A’s under manager Bob Melvin and has been looked at as a possible big league manager for most of that time. He was a finalist in the competition in Seattle at this time last year that saw Lloyd McClendon become the Mariners’ skipper.

“It’s a great hire by Arizona,’’ Melvin, himself a former Diamondbacks manager, said Monday. “Chip’s more than ready for the job. There are some Oakland connections for him there, and he was in that organization for a while, too.’’

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Rangers’ Washington continues to be impressed by A’s

The A’s didn’t have to do anything more to impress Ron Washington.

After all, the Rangers manager has been a fan of the A’s since he coached third base for them from 1996-2006.

The Rangers sent a message by sweeping a three-game series in Oakland last week. The way the A’s responded was to beat the Rangers two best pitchers on consecutive nights Monday and Tuesday, knocking Yu Darvish and Martin Perez out of the game before either to get to five innings pitched.

It was worse on Tuesday, because the A’s ruined Washington’s birthday (he’s never had a managerial win on his birthday).

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Rangers’ Washington respects the strength of A’s bullpen

Jim Johnson could be closing again for A's the way Rangers' manager Ron Washington sees it.

Jim Johnson could be closing again for A’s the way Rangers’ manager Ron Washington sees it.

It’s by no means clear that the A’s want to go long term with the closer-by-committee that has marked the first month of the 2014 season.

Texas manager Ron Washington doesn’t know if Jim Johnson will reclaim his job as closer or if A’s manager Bob Melvin will have Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson (and possibly Ryan Cook) will continue to take the job on an ad hoc basis.

Washington sees no reason why the A’s can’t do it if they want to.

“They are above the norm as far as bullpens go,’’ the Rangers manager and former Athletics third base coach said. “They go 100 mph from the left side. They can go 100 mph from the right side. They can throw breaking balls from the left side. They can throw breaking balls from the right side.

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Game 148 wrapup: Moss, A’s impressed by Darvish; Magic number at 10; Rangers accomplish none of their goals so far; Balfour says all credit to Bartolo

Brandon Moss homered in the first inning the last time he faced Yu Darvish, a two-run shot that led to what would become an 11-4 A’s win back on Sept. 4.

So perhaps it should have been no surprise that when Moss faced the Rangers’ ace in the first inning Saturday, he’d unload with a run-scoring double.

The difference this time was that there would be no scoring on either side, and the A’s would claim a 1-0 win that would move Oakland to 5½ games in front of Texas in the American League West. The A’s magic number to win the West — any combination of 10 A’s wins or Rangers losses would give Oakland the title.

It never occurred to Moss that his hit would produce the game’s only run.

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After the Twins, Rangers series looms large for A’s

It will be interesting to see how the A’s play the final game of their series in Target Field.

They are coming off their biggest blowout of the season, an 18-3 win over the Twins Wednesday. And on Friday they start their final series of the season against their competition in the American League West, the Texas Rangers, in Arlington.

With those kinds of bookends, a day game like this could get lost in the shuffle.

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Game 138 wrapup: Donaldson opens eyes around baseball; Nakajima future with A’s murky at best

When the A’s first turned to Josh Donaldson two springs ago and asked the catcher/third baseman to quit catching and concentrate on playing third base, he jumped at the chance.

It wasn’t an easy transition, but his willingness to work on his game never wavered.

Tuesday night, with an acrobatic catch against David Murphy that carried the third baseman into the space between the left field tarp and the padded retaining wall behind it, Donaldson may have given notice that his defense doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone’s.

A’s reliever Jerry Blevins was the pitcher at the time, and he was coming over to back up at third base.

“That catch should get him an invitation to the ESPYs. He’s just a guy who plays all-out all the time.’’

Jon Daniels, the Texas general manager, is in town to watch his Rangers play the now-second-place A’s. He was one of many who were blown away by the catch.

“When he first came up last year,’’ Daniels said, “he was a below-average third baseman. Now he’s one of the best.’’

The question for the A’s since late last year when it became clear that Donaldson could play third and would only get better was simple: How to rein in someone who puts his body on the line all the time.

The answer is that you can’t.

“That’s the way he plays,’’ A’s reliever Grant Balfour said. “That’s just him.’’

“He could get hurt, but he doesn’t let that stop him,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I never knew what a good athlete he was. But he’s a gamer. Big time.’’

Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, speaking for many, looked at that play and said, “That’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen anyone make at third base.’’

 

–The A’s callups Tuesday, presumably the last ones of the season, did not include one big name.

Hiro Nakajima, the man signed out of Japan to be the A’s shortstop in place of the departed Stephen Drew, had a bad spring, was injured just before the season began, missed a month of the season, then went on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

He never returned. Nakajima had an up-and-down year with Sacramento, finishing at .283, but after a slow start he was at .320 or so and it seemed like he might be the next player promoted.

It never happened. Now the question is whether or not he will be around to finish out his two-year contract with the A’s.

A team player, he was willing to spend whatever time the organization needed proving himself at Sacramento. But after a year in the minors and with no promotion, he may decide he doesn’t want another year of this.

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The best in AL West? Depends on your point of view

The force in the American League West is clearly either the A’s or the Rangers.

The team with the advantage depends on the point of view of the analyst.

“They are the team to be,’’ Rangers’ manager Ron Washington said of Oakland. “They are the division champions.

“I don’t expect them to go away. I don’t expect us to go away.’’

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Game 111 wrapup: Cruz decision huge factor in A’s, Rangers battle in A.L. West down stretch

The Rangers left Texas feeling good about their chances in the American League West.

After taking two of three from the A’s, the Rangers are in better position now than the A’s were last year when Oakland roared from behind to take the division title on the final day of the season.

It may be false optimism, however.

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Gio Gonzalez named as Oakland A’s lone All-Star

A’s left-hander Gio Gonzalez was named to his first All-Star team Sunday, a testament to the transformation he’s made from an erratic young talent to a polished major leaguer.

Gonzalez, 25, was expected to be the lone Athletic chosen for the July 12 showcase, and indeed he was when American and National League rosters were revealed. Gonzalez was one of five pitchers that Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, the AL manager, hand-picked for the squad.

Fan voting determined the starters, and player votes and managers’ picks filled out the reserve players and pitchers.

“It’s awesome,” A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “He works so hard. Everybody knew he had the talent, but to see him put it together is awesome. He deserved it, well deserved for sure.”

Gonzalez wasn’t expected to be available for comment until after the game because he’s pitching Sunday. He’s also slated to pitch Friday against Texas, which would make him available to pitch in the All-Star Game on three days’ rest.

“He’s having an outstanding year,” Washington said. “He’s a tough competitor. We face him enough. And he gives me a nasty left-hander out of the bullpen.”

Gonzalez was a can’t-miss prospect when he made his big league debut in 2008, but he struggled with his command – and maturity. Once he found trouble on the mound, he had trouble not letting things snowball.

Beginning in 2010, Gonzalez showed major strides. This season, he’s been the anchor of an A’s rotation that’s been gutted by injuries. He is 7-5 with a 2.38 ERA, a mark that ranks fourth among American League starters. His .216 opponents’ batting average ranks eighth in the league and his 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings is tied for third.

“We’ve got one of the best pitching staffs in the league and he’s been our best starter so far,” A’s reliever Brad Ziegler said. “He’s just been able to bounce back from adversity better. Also, just learning to trust his fastball more. Sometimes he would fall in love with his curve ball, and when you’ve got a 94 mph fastball, that’s not always necessary.”